Scholarly Technical Education Publication Series (STEPS) Vol. 1

Papua New Guinea’s TVET: at the Crossroads


    Dr. Uke Kombra
    First Asst. Secretary
    TVET Wing, Department of Education
    Papua New Guinea
    [email protected]


Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a developing country and is considered as the biggest island state in the Pacific with 7.2 million people population with diverse culture. It gained its independence in 1975 with only 15% of its population in formal employment.

The Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is one of the institutions in PNG that provides skills training to its people for possible employment. Although, TVET regulations come into different state agencies, it has contributed to the workforce demand in the country. It undertakes training on qualification framework since 2005 as part of the reforms in the country’s TVET system through the Department of Education. The government’s vision - goals 2050 are reflected in its Strategic Management Plan (SMP). To achieve its vision-goals 2050, PNG employed strategies which are defined in outcomes stated in its SMP. However, SMP’s success is dependent on the government’s political will to centralize and regulate the entire TVET system in the country.

Keywords: flexible and open learning, sub-standard qualifications, regulatory framework


This paper presents the different practices and strategies of TVET in PNG. It focuses on the current practices in strategic planning, priorities, essential good practices, and lessons learned in nurturing the TVET system. This paper covers the following:

The context of Papua New Guinea and its education system;

  • Key challenges in developing a national TVET strategy to meet local and global challenges;
  • Major strategies adopted and paradigm shifts in the current TVET strategic plan;
  • Major achievement and best practices; and
  • Lessons learned and future challenges.

The Context of Papua New Guinea

A country’s quest to achieve education and training for its citizens is fundamentally about providing an adequate learning environment that is accessible to all citizens to better improve their lives and play a productive role in society (UNESCO, 2011). Thus, in this context, quality vocational education and training is imperative, although PNG is faced with a challenge on how to provide equitable service to its people. The country’s geographical, cultural, political, economical, bureaucratic and social ditinctiveness are briefly discussed to provide a background to these challenges.

Geographically, PNG lies in the tropics, 141-160 degrees east of Greenwich and 0-14 degrees south of the equator. PNG’s 600 offshore islands and the mainland in total cover a land area of 462,840 square kilometres, which is just a little over the size of Iraq. (New World Encyclopaedia, 2008). PNG’s geography is diverse and, in places, extremely rugged. Culturally, PNG is one of the most diverse countries in the world, with over 800 languages (Litteral, 1999) with distinctive cultures practised by its 7.2 million (2007 estimate) Indigenous inhabitants (National Statistics Office [NSO], 2000). PNG is governed by three political structures – national, provincial, and local level governments.

Economically, PNG is classified as a low to middle income developing country (AusAID, 2003; Pagelio, 2002). PNG has a small dual economy that consists of an informal sector supporting 85 percent of the total population in semi-subsistence agriculture and a minority of 15 percent in the formal sector.

The Context of Education in PNG

The education sector within PNG comprised of three sub sectors, namely, general education, TVET and higher education. The following PNG education system structure somewhat depicts these sectors and their linkages to community and work.

General education starts with children at 6 years of age. All children begin their basic education in an elementary school in a language that they speak. For the next three years they develop the basis for sound literacy and numeracy skills, family and community values including discipline; personal health care and respect for others. Primary education starts at 9 years of age. Children continue their basic education in a primary school. After six years of primary education that begins with a bilingual program, children have the skills to live happily and productively, contribute to their communities and use English to understand basic social, scientific, technological, and personal concepts and value learning after grade 8.

Secondary education is offered at secondary schools and flexible and open learning Colleges. Students in Grades 9 to 12 achieve their individual potential

Figure 1: PNG Education System Structure (Source: Apelis, 2012)

to lead productive lives as members of the local, national and international community and partake in further quality education and training, having undertaken a broad range of academic subjects and vocational related life skills that can be used in everyday life.

Responsibility for the TEVT sector sits with a number of Government agencies. The three key players in the provision of technical education and training are the National Apprentice and Trade Testing Board (NATTB) and the National Training Council (NTC), the Department of Labour and Industrial Relations (DLIR) together with the Department of Education acting through the Technical Vocational Education and Training Wing.

The TVET system in the Department of Education is delivered at the provincial and national levels across all the 22 provinces of PNG including National Capital District and Autonomous Region of Bougainville through vocational training centres Community Colleges 1 (Parallel), technical secondary schools 2 technical and business Colleges and a National Polytechnics. PNG has 132 vocational training centers. Technical Secondary Schools, seven Technical and Business Colleges, one national polytechnic and a number of Community Colleges with total enrolment of approximately 21,000 students and 377 teachers (DOE, 2010).

The Department of Education has managed TVET institutions since the establishment of a national education system in the early 1970s. The TVET system has gone through a number of reforms to enhance the system in recent years. This includes the amalgamation of vocational and technical education under one division and a recent upgrade to a wing status, adoption of a national TVET qualification framework (NTQF) and National Certificate (NC) courses including Diploma programs, the shift in the teaching and assessment approach to Competency Based Training and Assessment (CBT&A), vocational centers rationalization and systemization. Despite the reforms there has been inherent challenges. The lack of special laboratories, computer facilities, workshops and funds to purchase adequate teaching materials, as well as a shortage of general studies and specialist teachers. These issues have impeded the growth and quality of TVET in PNG. A recent Needs Analysis of Technical and Business Colleges report (AusAID, 2011) confirms the challenging status of almost all Colleges’ infrastructure and instructional resources.

It is the responsibility of the DLIR through the National Training Council and National Apprentice and Trade Testing Board to ensure that there are no duplication of functions. All regulatory functions are carried out by improving coordination, either by strengthening the capacity of existing bodies or by forming an overall regulatory body. Advice is taken from industry, business and community leaders in order to provide a policy framework. However, weaknesses have been noted in the regulatory policies and implementation (Kombra, 2012).

Key Challenges in Developing a National TVET Strategy to Meet Local and Global Challenges

Firstly, in the views of some observers such as the PNG National Research Institute (Seta, 2010), the PNG TVET system is dysfunctional since independence. Banda (2009) made similar observation and attributed these circumstance to inconsistency of support from different levels of government.

The views of the critics are affirmed by the TVET policy (DOE, 2010) statement that the whole TVET system in PNG is very fragmented, and thus, requires serious intervention by the national government. TVET may be delivered in different types of institutions, including technical and vocational centers and Colleges – public and private, by NGOs, in enterprises, apprenticeship training, informed (sic) and non-formal learning and industry training centers (p.5).

A national training plan, a national qualifications framework, a clear leading role for business and industry as well as quality standards in curriculum and delivery are the essential components of a functional system.

These key elements are missing or not functioning effectively. Other key players suggest that industry and business does not see value in engaging with the public TVET system and sees opportunities to either set themselves up as registered TVET providers (Ela Motors, Hastings Deering, Ok Tedi) or to partner with Australian providers (APTC in the case of local businesses, SkillsTech in the case of the Exxon Mobil LNG project). Some local businesses had set up their own TVET providers to avoid sending their apprentices to the government TVET providers.

Next, there is no PNG National Qualification Framework (PNGNQF) that regulates and standardize training and qualifications. At present, different providers are awarding unregulated certificates. Some of these providers are offering internationally recognized certificates whilst some are possibly awarding ‘sub-standard’ and questionable programs and qualifications.

In the absence of a PNGNQF, the MOE TVET sub sector has moved ahead to develop its own National TVET Qualification Framework (NTQF) in 2005. The NTQF that categorizes qualifications offered in all TVET institutions under 6 National Certificate (NC) levels. Namely, NC1 to NC4, National Diploma and Advanced National Diploma. This NTQF is similar to the Australian TVET qualification model. Despite this, the TVET NC qualifications have yet to be harmonized with school and higher education qualifications. TVET institutions are offering NTQF courses as well as technical training certificates, diplomas, short-term courses, apprenticeship training.

The reforms are planned to be fully implemented in business and technical Colleges by 2015 and vocational training centers and other institutions by 2020. The slowimplementation of the NTQF coursesis caused by a lack of appropriately qualified teachers, lack of equipment and tools, and teacher in-service training to offer NTQF courses using the CBT&A approach.

PNG’s current context where TVET is provided by different ministries and state owned enterprises such as the Department of Education, Fisheries, Forestry, Telikom, DAL, and Health as an indicator for unsatisfactory governance of TVET. On the contrary, it should be seen as an indicator for a broad variety of opportunities for vocational education and training in PNG, as opposed to a rigid monolithic TVET system with a limited spectrum of specializations and delivery patterns.

For TVET to advance in PNG, the Department of Education is advocating that currently fragmented and loosely coupled PNG TVET system has to put in place processes and systems that:

  1. seek advice and research into current and future skill needs and effectiveness of existing training programs of all providers and regulators;
  2. allow direct industry and business participation in developing competency standards and skill sets aligned to specific occupations and job roles;
  3. allow direct industry and business participation in training, which may include delivering training as a registered training organization, providing work placements or work experience, and employing trainees who are also studying; and
  4. support TVET initiatives including student scholarships and awards, work opportunities for TVET teachers and trainers engaging in return to industry programs; and above all,
  5. establish a single entity to plan, set policies, regulate and monitor all TVET training.

Major Strategies Adopted and Paradigm Shifts in the Current TVET Strategic Plan

The Government of PNG through its Vision 2050 and associated planning documents has prioritized the need to increase the quality and quantity of skills training in the technical and business Colleges and other tertiary institutions as part of an overall strategy of increasing the skills capacity of the PNG workforce. Skills training is now a very high priority on the GoPNG policy and planning agenda after decades of neglect. The PNG Government has developed a number of significant policy initiatives that have the potential to impact the TVET sector. (The Independent State of Papua New Guinea, 2009).

The ‘Papua New Guinea Vision 2050’ is an aspirational document developed in 2007 and 2008. Vision 2050 is underpinned by seven Strategic Focus Areas, which are referred to as pillars. Human Capital Development, Gender, Youth and People Empowerment are identified as Pillar 1. Under this Pillar, the following statements refer to the TVET sector and are projected to form part of the basis of socioeconomic growth under Vision 2050.

  • Access to industry and sector-based applied education for the adult population in the informal sector;
  • Expand teachers, technical, business, forestry, fisheries, maritime, tourism and hospitality, and Community Colleges that are recognised as institutions of higher education;
  • Establish one multi-disciplinary technical College in each province;
  • Establish one vocational school in each district;
  • Establish a National Curriculum, Assessment and Monitoring Authority;
  • Establish an Industrial Technology and Development Institute.

To address critiques highlighted by Banda (2009), Seta (2010) and AusAID (2011) in the preceding section, Kombra (2012) articulated the need to transform and expand TVET in PNG at the recent Principals’ Conference in Madang. Kombra (2012) espoused emphasis on a number of areas, including:

(a) applying an economic lens to examine and address the deficiencies and ineffectiveness in governance and regulation of TVET provision and quality standards;

(b) applying an equity lens to examine and address access, equity and inclusion so that every school leaver and citizen has an opportunity to work; and

(c) applying a transformational lens to initiate changes in rationalizing management and financing so that real difference at the institutional level than past year’s rhetoric.

Kombra’s (2012) suggestions are the essence of the Department of Education through the TVET Wing’s Strategic Management Plan 2011 – 2020 (TVET DOE, 2011). This strategic management plan refocuses and aligns the outcomes assigned to the National Education Plan (DOE, 2005) under the Government’s Vision 2050 which consists of 8 major outcomes as listed below:

Outcome #

Description of Outcome

  1. Legislate a regulatory framework for TVET consistent with the National Government’s Vision 2050
  2. Provide access to industry and sector-based applied education for the adult population in the informal sector
  3. Expand teachers, technical, business, forestry, fisheries, maritime tourism and hospitality, and Community Colleges
  4. Establish one multi-disciplinary technical college in each province
  5. Establish one vocational technical high/secondary school in each district
  6. Establish the Industrial Technology and Development institute
  7. Establish the TVET Flexible and Open Learning (FOL) Institute
  8. Establish new TVET Human Resource Management requirement

The next section highlights several specific activities in the Department of Education TVET system.

Major Achievement and Best Practices

The Department of Education has taken up a number of significant reforms within the Department of Education TVET subsector, since 2005. These achievements include the following:

TVET Policy Statement

The guiding principle of the administration of TVET system within the Department of Education is a policy statement developed in 2005. These statements incorporated the NEP 2005 – 2014 directional goals and outcomes. Additional polices were incorporated in 2010 to include changes such as the community college concept and the relevant Vision 2050 TVET goals.

For PNG, the development of the TVET Policy was a step forward to enhance commitment to change and to provide continuous direction for growth and progress in the development of TVET sector consistent with the National Education Plan for 2005 to 2014. It was envisioned that this Policy would eventually see the coordination of a functional TVET system that recognizes the alignment of efforts towards PNG’s economic directions and national training priorities.

PNG TVET National Qualification Framework

Another significant development in PNG’s TVET systems within the Department of Education has been its leadership in developing a qualification framework. It is gaining more recognition, as it phases out its previous generic qualification called technical training certificate. The TNQF recognizes that the schools and higher education sectors have different industry and institutional linkages to those of TVET. It links school and initial vocational/technical qualifications through to those of higher education with a transparent mechanism for the assessment, certification and recognition of skills including prior learning.

The TNQF also recognizes and supports the need for specialized curriculum oriented towards rural and village development. This curriculum will be underpinned by short courses in topical areas such as building, forestry, agriculture, maintenance etc. Furthermore, national occupational competency based standards are driven by input from business, industry and community. Curriculum is written to national occupational standards. Credit in the future will be made available for any modules or courses, which are run in schools or as short courses.

Competency-Based Training and Assessment

As stated elsewhere in this report, the Department of Education TVET qualifications are based upon a CBT&A model. There are traditionally seven core trade areas, namely, Business Studies - Office Administration, Carpentry Construction, Electrical, Motor vehicle mechanics, MVM, MFW, MFM and Plumbing trades have already been converted to CBT&A modules. Recently, Community Services, and Primary Industries have been added.

The next section discusses the monitoring and evaluation component of the Department of Education’s TVET Strategic Management plan.

Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanisms

The Department of Education’s TVET Strategic Management Plan 2011 – 2020 implementation is routinely monitored and evaluated. Monitoring is ongoing at the Branch, Section, Division and Wing level during normal meetings and at specific periods of this plans timeframe.

Team leaders of Units, Divisions and the Wing are responsible for

  1. Monitoring and evaluating the status and performance of TVET;
  2. Managing, assessing leaders, and taking corrective measures when and where necessary;
  3. Collecting information to improve on past performance; and
  4. Measuring progress of the key outcomes and outputs and report on a regular basis. This specifically aims at:
    • Progress on the implementation of the programs, eight core outcomes foreseen by the Plan with respect to schedules, resources, inputs, objectives, costs and funding; and
    • Results and impact achieved.

Monitoring and evaluation also includes reviewing the planned strategies. The TVET Strategic Management Plan will be reviewed in 2015.

This will be done to align with the next National Education Plan (2015 to 2024) visions and directions. This process also ensures that the plan is relevant and is ‘living’. The Measurement and Quality Assurance Unit is responsible for overall monitoring and evaluation of the plan until a planning branch is established.

The final section, next, describes a few lessons learnt and potential future challenges.

Lessons Learned and Future Challenges

There are three significant challenges facing TVET. First, numerous reports including a Commonwealth Secretariat research has highlighted that in PNG the issue of multiple stakeholders and no clear responsibility for TVET policy or delivery causes confusion and with little or no clear definition of responsibilities for the sector (AusAID, 2011; Commonwealth Secretariat, 2012; TVET DOE, 2012). Therefore, the TVET system in PNG considered as somewhat fragmented, and the Department of Education has called for serious undertaking and intervention by all key players to come together for the common good. One of these, for instance, is for TVET across the whole country to be governed by a single entity to ensure that quality skilled workforce needs are met (Kombra, 2012).

The concern here is the need for PNG to establish appropriate national structures and frameworks for information, communication, collaboration and coordination among ministries and state agencies that own and offer training. The Department of Education is advocating that PNG should have articulated national policy guidelines that include these principles:

  • A national approach to TVET policy development and implementation
  • The establishment of appropriate structures and agencies to implement TVET policy; and
  • The allocationand/or coordinationoffunding to support policy development, implementation and review. This includes funding from donor organizations and agencies and financing TVET through corporate taxation schemes and endowments.

Second, PNG needs to provide flexible and multiple TVET pathways for students and adults to access skills training. The Department of Education offers TVET through four post basic primary and post-secondary education - types of institutions. As depicted in Figure 2, the MOE recognizes the importance of linking vocational education and training, technical education and training, general education and flexible open distance education (FODE).

Figure 2: Department of Education’s TVET System Pathways and Linkages
(Source: DOE TVET Strategic Management Plan, 2011 – 2010)

The national education reforms and TVET pathway structure rendered in Figure 2 provides the framework and depicts the planned reforms in linking all TVET institutions. Curriculum and policies are being reviewed and reformed to improve the linkages, accreditation and articulation between the different institutions. At present there is no national qualification or accreditation policy framework so TVET students are facing a dead end -- at the end of their study and training programs.

The final challenge facing TVET institutions is financing and resourcing, specifically teachers, instructors and trainers. The TVET Needs Analysis documented severe deficits in the buildings and equipment of the technical and business colleges (AusAID, 2011). The position in the vocational training centers is more acute. Standards are also low at the cheaper end of the private sector. Hence, training to standards required by industry in these conditions are somewhat not met. The overall financing of TVET by the state through a tax levy scheme is being discussed. The outcome of the current discussions is very critical for the future of training institutions existence and sustainability.


To conclude, PNG is at the crossroads to either move ahead with major reforms or remain stagnant with a loosely coupled and fragmented TVET system. Strategic shifts to address the challenges of the whole TVET sector and building effective skills development that is responsive to current labor market demands and help achieve long-term socio-economic development goals envisioned in the Vision 2050 is paramount. The Department of Education TEVT is advocating growth in access and improving quality of TVET. The changes needed include

The need for national planning, coordination, qualification framework, regulation and monitoring of TVET. Legislative changes with clear defined roles for regulatory authorities and training organisations is needed; and state recognition of the need to establish a sustainable funding model.

With the institutionalisation of CBTA, full implementation of courses under the national qualification framework, advocacy to regulate TVET provision and quality assurance initiatives, coupled with the current government’s interest in TVET, there is hope for the growth of a bigger and better TVET system that produces adequate and quality tradesman and technicians that are at par with international standards.


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  2. AusAID (2011). AusAID funded Needs Analysis of Technical and Business Colleges. AusAID, Canberra.
  3. Department of Education (2005). Achieving a better future. A National Plan for Education 2005 - 2014. Port Moresby: Department of Education.
  4. Kombra, U. (2012). The Status of Technical and Business Colleges in PNG, Power Point presentation at the Madang Principal’s Consultative Conference, DWU.
  5. Litteral, R. (1999). Language Development in Papua New Guinea. SIL
  6. Electronic working [papers 1999-002 Retrieved 20/02, 2008, from http:/
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  10. Pagelio, J. (2002). A Study of Leadership of the Department of Education in Papua New Guinea: Perspectives from Postcolonial and Leadership Theory Unpublished Doctoral Thesis, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.
  11. TVET – Department of Education (2012). TVET Strategic and Management Plan 2011 to 2012. TVET Wing, Waigani.
  12. UNESCO (2011). Promoting effective skills policies and systems : Improving skills development and national TVET policies and systems. Bridgetown, Barbados 26-30 September 2011.

1 Community Colleges is a TVET concept that is being trialed in PNG. Standalone Community Colleges will be national institutions. Selected VC are offering Community College programs. These college aims to provide for all and especially the disadvantaged. 2Secondary Schools or in some cases technical high schools are institutions that deliver a dual curriculum – a vocational and academic curriculum. A formal policy on this type of institutions is being developed, discussed and articulated.